Rugby: Expect no surprises in Highlanders squad

Roger Clark
Roger Clark
The Highlanders will name their final squad next week but do not expect any surprises.

The franchise has been busy during the recruitment period, signing All Blacks Hosea Gear and Andrew Hore, former All Black Tamati Ellison, and enticing Chiefs lock Culum Retallick and Manawatu forwards Doug Tietjens and Ma'afu Fia south.

It has also retained the bulk of last season's squad and with 28 confirmed players for this season there is not a lot of room to manoeuvre.

Super 15 franchises must contract a minimum of 30 players and a maximum of 32.

"Tuesday is the day to tidy up our selections and our wider training group," Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said.

"You'll find out on the Wednesday. But we've signed 28 out of 30, so we are only talking two players and eight in the wider training group.

"Your last two will basically be out of a draft, anyway, so it is sort of who is left in New Zealand from who isn't contracted."

The Highlanders have made huge strides from last season, when coach Jamie Joseph arrived to find just eight players on the books.

This season promises to be the best for the Highlanders in some time, with the likes of halfback Jimmy Cowan and first five-eighth Colin Slade running the cutter and dangerous backs like Ben Smith and Kade Poki also in the mix.

There is certainly a positive feeling around the community that the Highlanders can improve on eighth placing last season.

"It is another step up from last year," Clark said.

"With Hore, Ellison and Hosea Gear, there are three All Blacks or ex-All Blacks who have been signed to complement what we already had, so that is a big improvement.

"Part of our step forward is to make this team really competitive in the Super rugby competition.

"From a management perspective, everyone is excited.

"The team assembles on November 20, so it is not very far away now and there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes to make sure we can get the most out of the squad."

 

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